Analysis

California study justifying non-physician abortion law debunked

In 2013, California enacted a law allowing nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform first-trimester aspiration abortions. Bill author Assemblywoman Toni Atkins said at the time that keeping women from having to “travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion” was so “critical to women’s health” that the legislature’s only choice was to authorize these non-physicians to perform abortions for them.

Fears that this would endanger women’s health were ostensibly assuaged by a study from University of California-San Francisco researchers which concluded that “Abortion complications were clinically equivalent between newly trained NPs, CNMs, and PAs and physicians, supporting the adoption of policies to allow these providers to perform early aspirations and expand access to abortion care.” But in a new report, Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger takes a closer look at the study and finds the truth far less reassuring than the politically-motivated money quotes.

First, she notes the study’s background is anything but impartial. The pro-abortion Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation spent $3.5 million to fund it, while three pro-abortion, radically pro-population control foundations—the John Merck Fund, Educational Foundation of America, and David & Lucille Packard Foundation—chipped in a combined total of $443,000. Further, UC-San Francisco also happens to be the home of the $4 million Ryan Residency Abortion Training Program, a rather glaring conflict of interest.

Second, it turns out the researcher’s own findings didn’t actually give them the sunny result they chose to spin it as in their conclusion:

In this study, a total of 11,487 surgical aspiration abortions were completed between August 2007 and August 2011.

Participants had to be at least 16 years of age and less than 14 weeks pregnant.

However, 3,446 women, representing 30% of study participants, did not participate in after-abortion follow-up, leaving these outcomes in doubt.

Of the 8,041 remaining abortions that could actually be used in the study, approximately half were done by licensed physicians and the other half done by Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse Midwives, and Physicians Assistants.

The study notes that the most common complication during the study was incomplete abortions. If left untreated, incomplete abortions can result in hemorrhaging or serious, life-threatening infections.

While the researchers recorded nine incomplete abortions done by physicians over the life of the study, 24 incomplete abortions were done by the newly-trained non-physicians.

That means women were 2.7 times more likely to suffer an incomplete abortion with a non-physician than with a licensed physician.

How did they manage to dismiss hard numbers that showed the law’s new amateur abortionists would be more than twice as likely to harm their patients? Like this:

[T]he researchers used an overall standard abortion complication rate between 1.2 and 4.4%, which was determined by a panel of “researchers and clinicians” prior to the beginning of the study. They hypothesized that if their results fell within these parameters, it would validate their presupposition that surgical aspiration abortions done by non-physicians are “safe.”

Researchers extrapolated their results over the entire 11,487 participants, even though they had no idea what happened to 30% of the women.

The authors dismissed the significance of the doubled complication rate for non-physician abortions since it fell within their predicted rate of complications. Since twice the complications were expected, it was determined that it was safe to allow non-physicians to do abortions.

But the law requires these non-physicians to be trained! It’s not like they’re just letting anyone pick up a forceps and sending women their way! Well, turns out it’s closer to that than pro-aborts would have you believe. Sullenger goes on to note that these non-physicians were only given six days of training before being declared competent to perform unsupervised abortions.

Show of hands: who here would be comfortable submitting to any invasive surgical procedure at the hands of somebody who only had a week’s worth of practice? People spend years in medical school to become doctors and surgeons, because whenever an extreme special interest that throws society’s basic compassion and respect for human life wildly off-balance isn’t a part of the conversation, we instinctively understand that power over our most basic welfare requires the most rigorous preparation.

This is just the latest in a long line of abortion-affirming research that has turned out to be partisan manipulation rather than objective scholarship. Past pro-abortion studies have attempted, and failed, to prove that abortion is safer than childbirth, ultrasounds don’t discourage abortions, increased contraception distribution lowers abortion rates, abstinence education doesn’t work, abortion is psychologically harmless, restricting abortion devastates the poor, sex-selection abortion bans are pointless, ignoring FDA guidelines for abortion drugs is actually safer, Hollywood has a secret anti-abortion vendetta, and more.

The good news is that they are usually debunked in fairly short order, but the bad news is that the lies last long enough to permeate the public conscious, and the deadly legislation they justify remains.

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